For most persons, festive periods like the Yuletide are synonymous with consumption of tasty food and drinks in quantities that are larger and richer than normal. Most individuals tend to be less active during the Yuletide because in addition to being a festive period, Christmas is essentially a time of rest and relaxation, particularly for average working class individuals. Visiting colleagues, neighbours, friends and families at this period coupled with attending series of parties and generally indulging in heavy Christmas lunches or dinners and New Year’s Eve treats, it can be an effort to maintain normal weight.
With all the extra socialising and, of course classic goodies to contend with, many of us find that we start the new year carrying a few extra kilos. In fact we put on a kilo of weight on average every year, most of which is gained at Christmas and then never fully lost.
Seasonal variations in body weight can be quite remarkable and every individual’s ability to maintain a stable weight over the long term is dependent on many factors. However, that extra kilo gained over a period is more difficult to shed. In fact if care is not taken, the extra weight may just become permanent.
Due to poorer dietary choices and lower physical activity, regaining normal weight could be a struggle. Weight gain over the holidays could be substantial particularly if you don’t follow your normal dietary and workout routine. You may actually need to visit the gym more often or just get more active.
On average, it is not surprising that you may consume as much as 7,000 calories on Christmas Day alone. This is nearly three times your normal consumption. A lot of care and caution is required to prevent this.
Apart from the fact that Christmas dinner is delicious, there is a sub-syndromal condition which often leads comfort eating. Now that the holidays are over, it’s quite possible that the consequences of your overindulging are beginning to take their toll especially if you are struggling with infertility.
Weight gain and obesity are common factors to contend with when trying to conceive and being a healthy weight before pregnancy matters for every woman, and man to some extent.
When thinking of having a baby, a woman and a man should be in the best state of health as possible. Diet and body weight have lot to do with getting pregnant. It may be surprising to learn that body weight is part of the fertility equation and being overweight can alter hormones that control menstrual cycles and ovulation, which affects the ability to conceive.
The quantity and distribution of body fat in a woman can affect the menstrual cycle through a range of hormonal mechanisms. The rule of the thumb is that the more excess weight and more abdominal fat, the greater the risk of fertility difficulties.
Excess weight, particularly excess abdominal fat, is linked to insulin resistance (when the body has to produce more insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal) and decreased levels of a sex protein that is involved in the regulation of the sex-hormones androgen and oestrogen.
Fat cells can produce estrogen (female hormone), so as a woman, your body may produce excess estrogen if you’re overweight, which can prevent you from ovulating regularly. And when you don’t ovulate regularly, it can be hard to conceive.
Being overweight might also be related to a condition known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is an imbalance of reproductive hormones. Women with PCOS have a hard time conceiving due to hormonal imbalances that prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg each month.
Many women with PCOS also have insulin resistance, which is associated with excess insulin. And since high insulin levels cause the ovaries to make more testosterone and less estrogen, this can halt ovulation.
The point to note is that excess weight can limit a couple’s chances of becoming pregnant. Obesity affects a woman’s hormones. When your body mass index goes past the overweight category (BMI of 25–29.9) into the obese category (BMI of 30 and above), hormonal changes may occur in your body and your chances of conception decrease.
Obesity leads to insulin resistance — a major risk factor for diabetes — but it also affects fertility and can create abnormal menstrual cycles. Insulin resistance can lead to anovulation (irregular or absent ovulation).
If you’re overweight or obese, lose weight. Even if you have PCOS, weight loss can help. When a woman is obese, it is more challenging to become pregnant, no matter whether she’s trying to conceive naturally or through IVF.
Much of the focus on obesity and infertility is often on women, however, men too are just as affected. For men, obesity leads to a drop in testosterone, which can lead to infertility.
One of the easiest ways to improve chances of conception success is by losing weight. With weight loss, the hormonal imbalances and other effects of obesity begin to decrease. Couples can get started on a healthy weight loss plan path by incorporating positive lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, reduced portion sizes and healthier food choices.
When obese women are able to correct the insulin resistance with proper diet, exercise, vitamins and/or insulin-sensitizing drugs, normal ovarian function often returns.
Use of drugs, regular exercise and/or weight loss of 5-10 percent of body weight can each independently lead to occasional spontaneous pregnancies, but can also dramatically improve pregnancy rates with all fertility treatments.
We have established that healthy weight can increase your chance of pregnancy, and having a healthy baby. Obesity can also pose more risks for women undergoing IVF treatments because obese patients are at increased risk for complications such as over-sedation, under-sedation, respiratory insufficiency, decreased oxygen in the blood, airway obstruction, and aspiration of stomach contents.
For women with a BMI above 40, the egg retrieval technique is more challenging, difficult and dangerous. For this reason, some women with BMI over 40 (morbid obesity) may not be able to proceed to egg retrieval and conscious sedation. Any obese woman may be required to lose excess weight or pass medical and anesthesia clearance.
Morbidly obese women who do conceive have an increased risk of pregnancy complications and adverse perinatal outcomes and defects.
Women need to be counseled about the serious dangers associated with obesity and pregnancy complications. Obesity is a chronic but treatable condition. The problem can be solved, but requires motivation, counseling, and behaviour modification. Nutrition and weight loss are necessary precautions with obese women before and during pregnancy in order to reduce complications.
Being overweight affects the quality of eggs and sperm, and can reduce the chance of pregnancy – especially if you’re very overweight.
Being underweight can also reduce fertility.
For both men and women, healthy eating, regular exercise and losing even a few kilos can improve the chance of pregnancy.
The good news is that by making some changes – eating healthy meals and doing some regular exercise, you can work towards a healthier weight to improve your chance of pregnancy and having a healthy baby.
If you or your partner are overweight or obese, losing even a few kilos can improve your chances of getting pregnant. Losing weight is not easy, and it takes commitment and time, but for most people, it is possible. If you and your partner get healthier together, there’s a better chance of success. Constant and reliable support from a partner, family or friend can help you set up healthy lifestyle habits for the future.